Legislation would ban college applications from asking about convicted crimes. Campus cops oppose it.

 
Posted4/12/2019 5:30 AM
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  • Should Illinois colleges and universities be banned from asking applicants about their criminal histories? A bill pending in Springfield would do that, but security officials at Elmhurst College and elsewhere in the state are opposing the legislation.

      Should Illinois colleges and universities be banned from asking applicants about their criminal histories? A bill pending in Springfield would do that, but security officials at Elmhurst College and elsewhere in the state are opposing the legislation. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2012

If you've ever applied for college, chances are you've seen the question in one form or another.

"Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

For students trying to move beyond a checkered past, the question presents a dilemma: Tell the truth and hope your application finds an understanding admissions counselor, or lie and hope the college doesn't dive too deep into your background.

A measure pending in Springfield would eliminate that quandary. Called the Criminal History in College Applications Act, House Bill 217 would ban colleges in Illinois from asking applicants about their criminal histories.

Among its sponsors is state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, a Naperville Democrat who says the measure is intended to remove a second punishment for those who've done their time and are trying to better themselves.

"When people attend college, it reduces the rates of recidivism for those people," Stava-Murray told us from Springfield this week. "If someone is rehabilitated and served their sentence, there shouldn't be more punishment for them.

"This really is a case where additional punishment is being meted out," she said.

Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com, January 2019State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray of Downers Grove is among the co-sponsors of the Criminal History in College Applications Act. "If someone is rehabilitated and served their sentence, there shouldn't be more punishment for them," she said.
Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com, January 2019State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray of Downers Grove is among the co-sponsors of the Criminal History in College Applications Act. "If someone is rehabilitated and served their sentence, there shouldn't be more punishment for them," she said.

The bill passed through the House's High Education Committee on an 11-8 vote last month and is awaiting a vote of the full House.

Campus cops weigh in

Those in charge of protecting students on the state's college campuses aren't thrilled with the proposed ban. The Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, along with representatives from Elmhurst College, Wheaton College, Elgin Community College and Waubonsee Community College, are among those who've registered opposition to the legislation.

Aaron Woodruff, chief of police at Illinois State University, told us they're not against second chances and notes that most who admit to a conviction on their college application still get admitted. But they want exceptions carved out in the law that would require applicants to disclose convictions for sex crimes and other violent offenses.

"The universities and police recognize that education can be a key component in rehabilitation, but we have to do it with some common sense," he said, adding the campus law enforcement community hopes to negotiate a compromise with the bill's proponents in the legislature.

Woodruff said police have found allies on this issue among women's and LGTBQ organizations.

"They're asking, 'Why are we more concerned about someone convicted of a sex crime than other students on campus?'" he said.

Any thoughts on proposed legislation? Let us know at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

All clear

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman speaks during a televised news conference in February. Viewers spotted a lump on her neck, prompting dozens of calls and emails urging her to get it checked out by a doctor. Good news -- Ziman said this week the lump (and another one found by her doctor) is benign.
  Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman speaks during a televised news conference in February. Viewers spotted a lump on her neck, prompting dozens of calls and emails urging her to get it checked out by a doctor. Good news -- Ziman said this week the lump (and another one found by her doctor) is benign. - Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer, February 2019

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman posted some good news Thursday on her Facebook page: She had that suspicious lump on her neck checked out, and it's nothing to worry about.

"As you know, I was pretty convinced it was just going to be a peanut butter M & M lodged in my throat. It wasn't," she said in Thursday's video.

Dozens of concerned viewers urged Ziman to get the lump examined after they spotted it during a televised news conference in February.

"So after some fear and a couple of biopsies, I just got the results back and both sides came back clear, benign. So it is nothing to worry about," she said. "Thank you all for looking out. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate it."

Reader mail

We heard from readers after our March 22 column about the unusually high number of Illinois State Police troopers being hit and injured while stopped alongside the road in the first few months of 2019.

Since that column, trooper Brooke Jones-Story, 34, was struck and killed while inspecting a semitrailer truck along Route 20 near Freeport. And trooper Gerald Ellis, 36, of Antioch was killed two days later when his patrol vehicle collided with a wrong-way driver on I-94 near Libertyville.

Readers weighed in on our March 22 column about the rash of crashes involving Illinois State Police vehicles this year. The consensus -- speeding and reckless drivers are to blame.
Readers weighed in on our March 22 column about the rash of crashes involving Illinois State Police vehicles this year. The consensus -- speeding and reckless drivers are to blame. - Courtesy of Illinois State Police

Readers pinned the blame squarely on speeding and reckless drivers.

"While traveling at 65 miles per hour in the right (slower) lane of a 4-lane highway I have seen emergency lights on vehicles sitting on the fringes of road facing the same direction," Jerry Gibson of South Elgin writes. "Many times the speeders and folks who believe it is their privilege not to allow ANYONE traveling in the slower lane to put on their blinker and try to give parked vehicles the PROPER LAWFUL space, hog the lane so I as a responsible driver cannot get over in time to obey the new law. So the irresponsible speeder gets by the incident and, I the law abiding driver is ticketed for not getting over."

And Paul Zubinski of Palatine writes that police need to take a harder line on speeders and other traffic scofflaws.

"Young drivers have no fear of being caught. I am sometimes in fear of an accident, especially when driving on interstate highways where people routinely drive 80 and 90 mph," he writes. "Why can't these speeders and reckless drivers cutting in and out be caught, fined and their license be suspended?"

He also asks whether police can track tollway speeders as they pass from one toll to the next.

"The Illinois State Police does not track a driver's speed from toll to toll," state police Sgt. Delila Garcia told us. "The I-PASS is managed by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority."

In memoriam

The names of a Glenview police officer and Will County probation officer will be added to a Washington monument honoring members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty.

Ernest Wehr and Owen Masterson are two of the 371 names that will be inscribed at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in May. They are among 213 officers whose stories were "lost to history" until recently.

Wehr, 41, was serving as a Will County probation officer April 10, 1941, when a probationer he was driving to a work farm pulled out a gun and shot him in the head.

Glenview patrol officer Masterson, 42, died after suffering a medical event Dec. 6, 2014.

The roll call also includes four Chicago police officers who died in 2018: Cmdr. Paul Bauer, shot while pursuing a suspect; officer Samuel Jiminez, shot during a domestic-violence attack at Mercy Hospital; and Eduardo Marmolejo and Conrad Gary, who were struck by a train while chasing a suspect on the South Side.

• Got a tip or thoughts on a cops and crime-related issue to share? Email copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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